Cellphone health and safety risks

Owen Simons, Retreat

With reference to the front- page article “Rising concern at mast plan” (Southern Mail, December 5) please allow me to air my views.

My gut says to me that there are definitely health and safety risks from cellphone towers (such as the one at CAFDA, Retreat Road), antenna masts and other base station forms.

In fact, just off-hand, I have counted at least five in the greater Retreat area, with another one going up between Eddlesgas and the Retreat Mall, across the road from Zwaanswyk High.

I use a cellphone and a microwave, like just about everyone else I know. I also use a laptop on a daily basis, and these gadgets definitely radiate an amount of heat, which I can feel on my body.

This heat is called electric magnetic radiation (EMR). In cellphone masts this heat-generation is caused by radio frequency (RF).

At very high levels RF waves can heat up body tissues (source: US Cancer Organisation). This is similar to the reported incidents of one’s hand slowly cooking, as it were, as a result of the unguided frequent use of microwaves.

Headaches, memory loss, heart problems, low sperm count, birth defects and cancer are the health risks, owing to radiation from cell towers. The closer you are, the more at risk you are ( Source: Safespaceprotection.com)

As I understand, no definitive study has been conducted in South Africa on this matter. Why not? Where is the Medical Research Council on this issue? Why has cellphone companies such as Vodacom, MTN, Cell C not actively informed or funded proper South African research into this serious issue? Why has parliamentarians not pushed this agenda?

I can very well believe that middle class and poor areas have more cellphone masts than the rich areas. A drive through Bergvliet, Constantia, Claremont, Newlands confirmed this for me. Why? It is simple. The wealthy have money to employ lawyers and consultants to go to court, if need be.

Only in poor areas do big (and small business) do exactly what they like. The concern of most poor people is to simply put food on the table. Come to think of it, where is the City of Cape Town on this issue?

I am definitely placing my objection to the City of Cape Town. My main reason for this is that the City does not push for companies to actively engage communities on: proper information on the possible health effects of cellphone masts, insist that these companies, before they put up cellphone towers in any area, do random tests of residents around cellphone towers, and then follow-up tests after installation, enable public participation, such as sending letters to the homes of residents.

Local councillors could also take the initiative here, and place every planned cellphone tower in their constituencies on the agenda, and enable public participation.

More importantly though, each and everyone of us with a cellphone, and a tablet contribute to this “need” for cellphone towers, since we all want better and faster connection all the time. Surely though, with technology as advanced as it is today, perhaps we can find alternative means
of enabling cellphone use.

The public has a right to know, and be properly informed on the issues of cellphone masts, right at the planning stage. There too, must be robust citizen action against cellphone masts and base stations.